[Billboards at Night, Detroit]
Knud Lonberg-Holm American, born Denmark
Not on view
When the German architect Erich Mendelsohn returned from a visit to the United States in 1924, he brought with him a portfolio of remarkable images by Lonberg-Holm, a Danish architect with de Stijl and Constructivist associations. Lonberg-Holm had moved to the States in 1923 and scanned its fabled modernist cities with a fresh European eye and a 35-millimeter handheld Leica. Mendelsohn published Lonberg-Holm's "worm's-eye," bird's-eye, and neon-lit photographs without credit in "Amerika" (1926), his phenomenally successful picture survey of a country made of steel and concrete, electricity and advertisements.
Throughout the 1920s Lonberg-Holm's dazzling "lightscapes" and views of skyscrapers cropped up in design and architecture magazines in Holland, Germany, and Russia; they also appeared in two important sourcebooks on the new photography and clearly influenced the artists Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky. By the 1930s, however, Lonberg-Holm had given up architecture for advertising, and his photographs, never signed or dated, no longer circulated. Fortunately, a recent study by architectural historian Marc Dessauce clarifies Lonberg-Holm's precocious contribution to the New Vision. The Museum acquired a spectacular night view of New York City and this glowing paean to electric advertising, together with five other images, from the artist's estate.